Caring for a Paraplegic: What to Avoid

April 18, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy

When someone you care about or love is affected by a major debilitating condition, it’s common to feel kind of helpless, even useless at times. They’re dealing with a major life-changing situation, and you would love to help – but you don’t know exactly how. Or you’re afraid of doing the wrong thing.

Well, that’s exactly what we’d like to help you avoid today. Here are some tips to keep in mind when caring for a paraplegic:

Don’t overstep your bounds

Depending on how long the person has been paraplegic, it’s common for them to be fiercely independent. Most people hate to rely on others for basic needs, which is the situation a paraplegic finds themselves in often. Therefore, as a result, some paraplegic folks want to perform every task they’re able to – and their capabilities might surprise you.

That’s why you need to respect the boundaries. Feel free to offer help, but don’t assume that it’s needed. Always ask first before you start to assist. And when the person tells you they can do it themselves, let them.

Always take care and plenty of time when transferring

Transferring is one of the most difficult things to accomplish when someone is in a wheelchair, because it introduces a little bit of risk. When a person is between transfer spots – such as between the wheelchair and the bed – they’re quite vulnerable. That’s why you need to be present and ready to help, and ensure the person feels safe during the transfer. And this is definitely a spot where you want to take your time.

Always make sure the paraplegic person feels comfortable and secure during the transfer – if they panic or aren’t relaxed, it’s going to make this whole situation more difficult. And any squirming is problematic.

Don’t let them see you sweat

This is an old saying, and it basically means to keep your composure. Why would that be important? Because we understand that this is a difficult situation for you, and it’s easy to get frustrated, overwhelmed or even angry. So be prepared to express patience; a lot of patience. And it’s critical that you do, because remember that however hard this may be for you, it’s even harder for your paraplegic friend. Plus, they still have feelings, and they don’t want to see you struggling to help them out. So put on your bravest (and most patient) face.

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